Bobby Thoman

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since Jan 28, 2015
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Recent posts by Bobby Thoman

Danielle Venegas wrote:So I meant to ask, and being Wyoming born maybe I should know my cow breeds, but what breeds do you use and what do you suggest for our climate? Did you get them at auctions? I find it difficult to find someone willing to sell just 1 or 2 calves outside of auction. Then they aren't the healthiest calves. I just find cows hard to do on a personal scale. But perhaps that's because I don't know anything about cows.

Although our family has been in the cattle business for awhile, when the next generation started (us) we were looking for something different. We looked long and hard and studied many breeds before we made a decision. We talked to an old rancher who told us, "don't go reinventing the wheel." I think this was the best advice we got. We were wanting to go with a heritage breed, which is fine, but you have to be willing to except lower growth and later maturing. This would have turned out to be costly for us. Most British breeds work well for grass finishing (Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, etc.). We chose Red Angus because they do not get altitude sickness (brisket disease), they tend to be more moderate, they stay cooler in the summer due to their red color, and they are hardy. Granted, there can be more differences within a breed than between breeds, so choose wisely. We bought registered Red Angus cattle to begin with because we wanted data on the cows. This helped us with consistency, growth, calving ease, linebreeding, etc. We also use cross breeding for breed complementarity. Our website has more detail on our genetic philosophy. The best way to find these type of cattle is to find someone already raising them. Most commercial ranchers won't mess with sales of 1-2 head, but we will. We enjoy helping people get started and like the enthusiasm we see in people who have an idea and want to put it into action.
8 years ago
Allan Savory talks a lot about mineralizing/healing the soil with grazing. He is a great resource with many published studies.
8 years ago

Miles Flansburg wrote:You guys mentioned Joel Salatin in the video, Did you read his books, visit his place, or how did you find out about his stuff?

My brother, Brendan, met with Joel after one of his talks. He is a great guy with a wealth of knowledge. I've used the resources and information on his website.

Many permies follow up the cattle with other animals, like chickens. Have you all done that? What are your thoughts on that?

This is something we have looked into, but predators are a big problem for us. It would be adding another business, and honestly, we just didn't have the time.

What kind of response are you getting from other ranchers? I am wondering if your methods are spreading.

I'm pretty sure our neighbors think we are crazy. It helps that we come from an Ag background, but they still look at us funny when we talk about microbes, grazing alfalfa, finishing steers on grass, etc. We have found it best to wait for them to ask questions, then we can talk about the "non-conventional" approaches that we use. Most of the interest in what we do comes from smaller, hobby-type farms. Most of the bigger farmers/ranchers have this fear of going bankrupt if they try anything "non-conventional."

I am also wondering about the condition of the land before you started. There are a lot of folks here who have dryland and alkaline soils. Are you dealing with conditions like those? Any special techniques for that?

Of the entire ranch, we only graze a very small part (about 25 acres). We were able to graze this field because it was not very productive farm ground. It had a 14-yr-old stand of alfalfa and it was time to replant. The ground is variable from very sandy and sandstone, to tight bentonite clay. After 4 year of grazing, we see improvements in ground cover (thicker foliage), more liter/organic matter, and improved water retention. Managed intensive grazing (MIG) works great to heal poor soils. As far as dryland, we only get about 8" annual precip, so our dryland is mostly sagebrush. We are lucky if 10 horses can make it through the summer on a 1200 acre dryland pasture that we have.

We also talk a lot about polycultures here. How diverse is your seed mix? Pastures? Do you think there are ways to get the minerals that you feed from any plants that may be grown in the fields?

Our pastures are quite diverse, but we haven't done any planting. Grazing and nature have done a pretty good job of spreading seed and working it into the ground. Our grazing ground is mostly alfalfa and native grasses.

Our goal is to have the cattle get all their minerals from grazing. But, until that day, we need to supplement. One benefit has been fertilizing with Redmond Salt and Conditioner (clay). They say the minerals in the salt itself are about 20% available to the animal, if fed free choice. In a brine solution, they are about 50% available. But, tied to plant, they are 99% available. With this in mind, land application of a trace mineral salt and clay makes perfect sense (also great for lawns and gardens). Another method of getting the minerals in your soil is by feeding the mineral to the cattle, and letting them disperse it throughout the field. We use both methods. When our cattle start backing off the supplements, we know they are getting what they need from the grass. We will continue to supplement for those times when they aren't.

We have relatives in the Green River country. PM me for more details.
8 years ago
I have used DE to rid my garage of ants. It took a lot of DE, but it worked. DE also takes care of the fruit flies that occasionally gather around my keifer. It's a great wormer and delouser for livestock as well.
8 years ago
Redmond makes a conditioner that is essential to our livestock mineral program

Also, for human consumption, Redmond Clay
From first hand experience, this stuff takes the pain and blistering out of burns.
8 years ago

Kelly Smith wrote:
thank you for mentioning that you can graze alfalfa - if i had a $1 for every time someone stopped to tell me i cant/shouldnt be grazing alfalfa i wouldnt need a day job

a quick question:
how does the mob grazing effect the furrows in the fields? - i ask because i have found irrigation less effective after grazing animals over corrugations. putting a tractor on after the animals seems counter productive to me.
i realize all sites (especially irrigated sites) are different - and it looks like you certainly have more slope than i do - but any comments on this would be appreciated.

As you probably know, grazing alfalfa is possible when your animals are properly mineralized and their digestion is working properly. We have never lost a cow or calf to bloat, thanks to a good mineral program.

For us, grazing corrugated farm ground is made easy because the ground slopes away fairly steep. We do corrugate once every year in the spring before we begin the grazing season to clean up the trails and debris. During the grazing season, we sometimes have to shovel a corrugate out here or there. But it hasn't been a huge problem. With flood irrigation, the water just needs a general direction, which is mostly controlled by the slope of the ground.
8 years ago
Marketing was a tough one. Most everyone in WY knows someone who raises beef. It wasn't like some of these bigger urban areas where people are lined up to purchase grassfed beef at any price. We actually came up with a business plan that was based on slow growth and word-of-mouth advertising. We had a lot of initial customers that didn't care about the health benefits, they just wanted some good beef at an affordable price. We were able to win the taste-test battle against grain-fed beef and gain new customers by providing a superior beef product. It was definitely an uphill battle, but one that we recognized in the beginning and were able to plan for. Educating our consumer was another big one. If we were able to get their business by providing a better tasting product, we were generally able to keep their business by discussing the benefits of grassfed beef. Fostering personal relationships was important. We weren't just selling a product, we were promoting a new way of life, of which they were becoming a part of.
8 years ago
Thanks for the invite/intro. We have a lot of info about what has worked for us on our website

While we are working on our soil health on the ranch, it is important that we supplement our cattle with the minerals that the soil is lacking. We have experimented with quite a few different mineral mixes and consulted a few other ranchers in the grassfed business before finding something that works and is affordable. Genetics are important as well. Without the proper genetics, it's an uphill battle.
8 years ago